Under a new pilot grant program offered by the Brain Health Institute at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, Rutgers University–Newark, and New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) designed to drive new collaborations, neuroscientists from various campuses and units at Rutgers and NJIT were recently awarded nine, one-year research grants totaling $360,000. The projects are expected to generate preliminary data that can then be used in applying for federal, state, and private grants. Each project is directed by at least two principal investigators from different schools. Collaborative teams submitted 27 applications for review by an external scientific review committee and an internal programmatic review committee. Nine $40,000 awards were made. Seven of the nine funded teams have already taken their pilot grant proposal and submitted new applications to external funding agencies. Learn more about the projects.
CBN Professor Margolis and Professor James Tepper (RU-Newark) received an award for their project entitled "Role of Sensory Cortex in Behavioral Response Inhibition." Beyond its traditional role as an early-stage relay of tactile information, the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) has an increasingly appreciated role in sensorimotor behavior and motor control. Our proposed experiments explore the hypothesis that S1 is involved in sensory-driven behavioral response inhibition via differential connectivity with neural circuits of the striatum. Response inhibition, the ability to stop a goal-directed behavior in the appropriate context, is fundamental for the cognitive control of behavior. Impaired response inhibition underlies impulsive behaviors present across many neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders, such as Tourette’s syndrome, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and addiction disorders. While current thinking holds that signaling from prefrontal cortex to striatum mediates response inhibition, this idea may be too simplistic; other cortical areas including S1 provide massive projections to the dorsal striatum (DStr) that could play important functional roles, especially during specific behavioral contexts. The proposed research will investigate the functional circuitry of S1-mediated response inhibition using an integrative experimental approach including optogenetics, mouse behavior and electrophysiology. The results have the potential not only to change current thinking about the role of S1-DStr projections in behavioral control, but could also identify S1-DStr signaling as a potential therapeutic target in disorders involving impulsive behaviors.